Amid attacks on Catholic churches and other security concerns surrounding a looming Supreme Court abortion case, the U.S. bishops are inviting Catholics to turn to prayer.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will observe Religious Freedom Week June 22-29 by encouraging Catholics to pray, reflect, and act to promote religious freedom.
This year, the bishops are focusing on promoting a culture of life, with the theme “Life and Dignity for All.”
The USCCB website dedicates each day of Religious Freedom Week to a specific cause. Those issues include: Walking with Moms in Need (a project run by the USCCB to help pregnant and parenting women in difficult situations); adoption and foster care; taxpayer funding for abortion; religious freedom in China; pregnancy resource centers; health care workers, and free speech.
The list also includes church vandalism.
Following a leaked draft opinion in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last month, attacks on Catholic churches and pro-life organizations multiplied.
But Aaron Weldon, the USCCB’s religious liberty program specialist, told CNA that, even before the leak a “fair portion” of church vandalisms referenced the issue of abortion.
“We anticipated that this could be something that ramps up as we head toward the Dobbs decision and debates about abortion,” Weldon said. “Even if you are a person of no faith, you should recognize that people should be able to worship without being afraid of being attacked in some way,” said Weldon. “I think it’s something we can all agree on.”
The USCCB says that despite disagreement, religious freedom, as well as free speech, entitles each human to live in an environment of peace, not violence. Through “prayer, education, and public action,” the USCCB emphasizes Religious Freedom Week as a time to advocate for not only the ideals of the Catholic faith, but the freedom to worship for all faiths.
The USCCB’s suggested prayer intention to combat church vandalism is: “Pray that Christian witness in the face of attacks on our churches will convert hearts to faith in Jesus Christ.”
To reflect on such matters, the USCCB provides information regarding the harm of vandalism targeting religious places. The page provides examples of recent instances of vandalism on sacred spaces, noting that “the civic peace of a pluralistic society requires that people are free to worship without fear.”
In order to take action, the USCCB asks Twitter users to tweet a photo of their favorite church or devotional art to @USCCBFreedom with #ReligiousFreedomWeek.
Weldon also encourages all to contact their respective representatives in order to take a stand against vandalism and acts of malice toward “our faith community, or any other faith community.”
The USCCB, by celebrating Religious Freedom Week, recognizes the disagreements around the world concerning abortion, foster care systems, healthcare, and many more issues; however, the Catholic Church is called to bear “witness to the gospel of life and serving all who will be affected by these discussions and their outcomes,” even when faced with trials.
More examples of prayer, education, and activism for other issues are available on the USCCB website.
(Photo from Catholic News Agency via Amanda Wayne/Shutterstock.)
By Maisy Sullivan, Catholic News Agency